On the back of a week of Victorian Shiraz (including top wines from Lethbridge and Willow Creek), I thought it only natural that we carry on the theme this week, with a collection of Victorian reds other than Pinot Noir (I’m doing Pinot seperately).
With this tasting I basically dived into the sample pile and pulled out everything Victorian, uncovering plenty of diversity in the wash. A particular nod to the Sunshine Creek Cabernet and the potential for future Virago releases.
Balgownie Estate Bendigo Merlot 2010
I’ve not seen a Balgownie red under the white estate label, and this iss a welcome quality surprise. From the mature estate vineyard, it spends 17 months in oak (40% new). Deep maroon. Pencil shavings, a little beefiness, before a full, plum and mint palate that is really quite varietal and driven. It’s just a little warm and meaty, but that contrast of a fullish middle and mint tinged, tannic, I’m-cooler-than-you-think finish makes this quite involving. It’s actually quite refreshing! Quality wine. Best drinking: 2015-2026. 18/20, 93/100. 14% alc, RRP $60. Would I buy it? I’d share a bottle.
Pizzini Rubacuori King Valley Sangiovese 2008
The top dog of Pizzini Sangiovese. I didn’t know it previously but Rubacuori means ‘stealer of hearts’. Brick/tawny and very deeply coloured, this is Sangiovese but it takes a very Australian turn. A very oaky Australian turn at that. Brick dust, vanilla and cooked plums, the coconut sweetened palate is generous and plump yet missing the savoury edge of good Sangio. Good tannins and has some intensity but more like a middle aged Shiraz than Sangiovese. Will live for years yet. Best drinking: 2015-2025+. 16.5/20, 88/100. 13.8% alc, Cork, RRP $110. Would I drink it? Only a glass proposition, especially at this price.
Taltarni Pyrenees Shiraz Viognier 2013
A second label in the Taltarni portfolio (and I’m not a massive fan of the packaging) but a good one. Bright purple red. Meaty and quite serious, the nose with sausage and purple berries. The Viognier giving a little softness on the finish and the grip really quite welcome and proper. Such a grownup wine for $24, and a quick scan of the website says this can be picked up for $18. Bargain. Best drinking: 2015-2023. I7.7/20, 92/100. 14.5% alc, RRP $24. Would I buy it? I’d probably recommend it more than I’d buy it.
Tyrrell’s Rufus Stone Heathcote Shiraz 2013
Ever popular, but without ever really hitting the high notes. Dark purple. Purple blackberry fruit, perhaps a Viognier lift? Has some of that furry, black pepper Vic Shiraz aromatics and caramel purple fruit. Fractionally volatile. Lots of coffeed oak. Lots of purple fruit. It’s a big and plump oak drawn style, punctuated more by acid than tannin. Plenty of slurpable flavour here, if too much acid on the finish. Best drinking: 2015-2022. 16.5/20, 88/100. 14.5% alc, RRP $25. Would I buy it? There’s better out there.
Sunshine Creek Estate Heathcote Shiraz 2012
Confusingly, this is labelled as ‘Estate’ yet the fruit comes from Ian Rathjen’s vineyard in Heathcote. Spends 15 months in 30% new oak. Clearly packaged for the export market, with a kitsch, 90s label and sealed with Diam. Dark maroon red with red edges, there’s a surprising elegance on the nose, which shows choc mint, echoed on the slightly skinny and just mid weight palate. A curious lack of concentration on the palate ultimately, the red berry fruits a little confected and finishing with little more than alcohol warmth. I expected better for the dollars and given the winemaking (made by Mario Marson). Best drinking: 2015-2022. 16/20, 87/100. 14.5% alc, RRP $45. Would I buy it? No.
Tahbilk Eric Stevens Purbrick Nagamabie Shiraz 2010
Fermented in old wooden vats in the old winery. Tastes it too. This is old school in every way, a flashback to how the wine might have been made 30 years ago, with all its eccentricities. Dark red with light edges, this has a forward and leathery nose, with a slightly horsey and forward expression. Gentle, red earth savouriness suggests this will drink well forever in a leathery, old fashioned way. Can’t deny that this is creaky and a bit flatter than it should be though. A little bit more modern winemaking would go a long long way. Still, this will make for pleasurable old bones. Best drinking: 2015-2030. 17/20, 90/100. 13%, $71.95. Would I buy it? No. But I’d drink it in many years to come.
Taltarni Estate Pyrenees Cabernet Sauvignon 2012
A softer approach to the winemaking these days at Taltarni, with less time on skins. Dark maroon red, the nose dances between the flesh of red plum fruit, a liberal dash of mint and then some cedary Cabernet characters. Good start. Dry, minty palate has typically sturdy tannins yet feels drying and dessicated, the tannins and late acid hit an incongruous way to finish. Sure it will live, and the length is very good, but this would have been a better wine picked earlier and with more natural acidity. Best drinking: 2020-2035. 17/20, 90/100+. 14.5% $40. Would I buy it? Only as an older wine.
Sunshine Creek Estate Yarra Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2012
Sunshine Creek is a new label to me, with an unusual history (for the Yarra at least). Owned by a mysterious ‘Mr Zhou’, this label is based around Martha’s Vineyard at Yarra Glen, which was purchased in 2009 after being established in the 80s and providing fruit for Southcorp and Sticks. The viticulture is now under the control of Andrew Smith (Shelmerdine) and winemaking by Mario Marson. A new winery should be completed any day now. While I’m less of a fan of the rest of the Sunshine Creek range, this Cabernet is a stand out. A blend of 83% Cabernet, 14% Merlot and dollops of Malbec, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc, it is very much a classically proportioned Yarra Cab blend. Dark red, there is a lovely fragrance to this that is pure Yarra Cabermet – a hint of pyrazine leafiness alongside cassis and dark berry fruit. Lovely, elegant and flowing palate is just mid weight and has some really quite pretty, classically elegant herbal spice, with oak providing a final stamp before long, powdery tannins. Easily the finest wine of this lineup and a rather pretty Yarra Cab. Best drinking: 2015-2030. 18.1/20, 93/100. 13% alc, RRP $45. Would I buy it? I’d probably consider it. Nice wine.
Tahbilk Eric Stevens Purbrick Nagamabie Cabernet Sauvignon 2010
Mirrors the Shiraz. Dark red. Mirrors the languid, earthy and slightly horsey style of the Shiraz though stirs in more tannins to prop up the finish. A charming, earthy and subtlly structured, old school dry red that tastes much older than it looks. Best drinking: 2015-2030. 17.5/20, 91/100. 13.5%, $71.95. Would I buy it? No. Hard to justify the price.
Taltarni Pyrenees Petit Verdot 2013
Hard to make a straight Petit Verdot work really. Inky purple, this has a deep and thick nose with a little VA. Deep, driving plum flavours, lots of purple fruit and oak in a very deep form. But all back palate. A blending component, but a little mono dimensional by itself. Best drinking: 2016-2026. 16.5/20, 88/100. 14.5%, $24. Would I buy it? I’d take the Shiraz Viognier instead.
Virago Beechworth Nebbiolo 2012
Now here is a label to watch. From a vineyard planted in 2007 in Beechworth that is tended by ex-tax accountant Karen Coats and orthopaedic surgeon Prue Keith. Wine is made by Rick Kinzbrunner at Giaconda. Karen has almost finished a masters in Wine Science (like me) and this is very much her baby. Red brown with a little brick, there’s a lovely truffle and red earth nose here, the lithe palate elegant and yet with a juicy middle, it’s just a little light on the tannins, but driven by lovely glacé fruit. Just a bit more varietal intensity and this will be a star. Great packaging too. Drink: 2015-2025. 17.5/20, 91/100. 14%, Cork, $45. Would I buy it? I’d share a bottle.